Mammals strut their stuff

How does New York's Fashion Week compare with the lesser known (but just as colorful) Pet Fashion Week?

Published September 10, 2008 2:10PM (EDT)

There's something honest about making clothes by hand. Although each outfit trotted down the runway at New York's Bryant Park will eventually be reproduced many times, the single piece custom-made to fit just one model gives fashion a sense of purpose. Fashion Week reminds me that the needle has to be threaded, the fabrics handpicked and each stitch carefully placed.

I loved Susan Cianciolo's constructed frocks of printed fabrics and her boxy, asymmetrical shapes. Ashleigh Verrier, inspired by nature and the darkness of fairy tales, created a collection right out of "The Little Mermaid" -- that is, if that little mermaid were hipper and thinner. The sparkly silvery blue dress with braided silver trim was definitely one of my favorites. She played with butterfly appliqués and giant bows in the middle of the back, reminiscent of Cinderella (because, according to Verrier, fashion played such a major role in that story).

Videotaping the runway shows, on the other hand, is less inspiring. It is hot crammed up on the riser at the front of the runway, elbowing for room. We wait, heavy camera in hand. The show starts at 9 a.m., the clothes actually come down the runway at 9:50 and we’re out.

And then there's the question of why we embrace the very tall, very skinny women who march down the runway -- expressionless under the pounds of makeup, hair teased or braided, tiny bodies under the tiny clothes as they walk robotically, pose, turn and walk back in shoes too tall for any regular person. Some of the glamour disappears up close.

Which is why Salon checked out New York's other, less celebrated style extravaganza: Pet Fashion Week. Mostly an industry affair, designers take their dogs to the runway. We videotaped both events for comparison's sake and hope that next season these bedazzled furry friends get to take over Bryant Park.

By Caitlin Shamberg

Caitlin Shamberg is a former multimedia editor at Salon.

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